Today in Christian History

May 3

May 3, 1512: The Fifth Lateran Council, the last attempt at papal reform before the Lutheran revolt, opens in Rome.

May 3, 1675: A Massachusetts law goes into effect requiring church doors to be locked during services. Officials enacted the law because too many people were leaving before sermons were over.

May 3, 1738: English preacher George Whitefield, the most famous religious figure of the 1700s, arrives in America for his first of seven visits. In his lifetime, Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million hearers (see issue 38: George Whitefield).

May 3, 1814: Thomas Coke, the first English bishop of the Methodist Church, dies. John Wesley sent him to oversee the American branch of Methodism in 1784; he later handed that responsibility to Francis Asbury (see issue 45: Camp Meetings and Circuit Riders, issue 2: John Wesley, and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).

May 3, 1861: The Southern Congress approves a bill installing chaplains in Confederate armies. The American military did not normally employ chaplains, but they became a permanent fixture during and after the Civil War. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Union soldiers and approximately 150,000 Confederate troops converted to christianity during wartime revivals (see issue 33: Christianity & the Civil War).

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May 20, 325: Emperor Constantine convenes the first Ecumenical Council in Nicea (now Iznik), Bithynia, to discuss Arianism, a heresy arguing that Christ was subordinate to God the Father. "I entreat you," Constantine said at the opening of the Council of Nicea, "to remove the causes of dissension among you and to establish peace." The council attempted to resolve the bitter conflict by anathematizing Arius (Arianism's founder) and ordering the burning of all his books, but the conflict continued ...

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